MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO
In any true democracy it is believed that the constitution is supreme. And in the case of the United States, it is the conscientious and sincere efforts of the past and present leaders of the country in preserving the supremacy of the constitution that has helped above all else to preserve the American society and its way of life to this day. Why this is important is because once a people’s way of life has been compromised then the people are as good as destroyed.
Yet, as important as the constitution is to the survival of the society, it will be good to point out that the constitution is not an instrument drawn up to stand by itself alone without the people. Therefore in the process of society’s administration of justice there are two distinct aspects, the spirit and the letters of the law. The letters of the law constitute the aspect which is strictly what the law says and it is a very important part in interpreting the law and making judicial decisions. The spirit of the law has to do with the discretion of the wielders of the justice gavel. And this aspect is just as important as the other. Someone may argue as much as he wants as the law being an ass but we are yet to see when robots will start presiding over cases in the law courts.
What we are saying therefore is that there is the human face of the law. The constitution was drawn up by the people to serve the wishes of the people and not the people for the constitution. In any true democracy it is the people that come first and the majority has always won over the minority when the fundamental wishes of the few are not in any danger. Which in this case of the mosque at Ground Zero, there is no perceived wish of the advocates, freedom of religion, that is in any way being tampered with because the question is not either to build the mosque or not but where and why. The choice of the positioning of the mosque is not about what is just as much as what is right, what is right for the people.
Respecting the fact that the President and the New York Mayor must defend the constitution which they swore to do on taking office, but the question is which comes first in their line of defense, the constitution or the people? Or let us put it differently, if the constitution as the legal instrument of the state and the citizens come under attack at the same time, which should be saved first by these officials? The constitution is made to protect the wishes of the people in a democracy and not the people to protect the constitution to the detriment of their feelings and well-being. A people’s set of rules or constitution may help in shaping the people’s way of life but the totality of what constitutes their way of life goes way beyond their constitution and legal system.
Good governance is only when the feelings of the majority of the governed are informing decisions and utterances of the office holders. In a democracy it is number that counts not necessarily the rightness of decisions. Also in a democracy, the President is supposed to represent the majority of the people in his positions on issues like this one because it is the majority that voted him into office in the first place. The majority is the reason for the President’s being and he cannot afford to be insensitive to the wishes of this majority in his bid to satisfy the few whose wishes are not being threatened but rather being asked to make adjustments to accommodate the feelings of their neighbors. The most important point to note here is that the critics of the mosque site are not against the mosque but against the place and time of it. If government had become about the impersonal application of the letters of the law then we can as well hand over the running of the nation to a bunch of robots with the letters of the constitution programmed into them and, believe me they will do a better job than most of us. But before then I think the American people still have faith in the people they elect to positions of power that they will always work for their greater good and the good of the greater number which can only be done by knowing, listening to and doing what the people want.
Needless to say that this whole situation would have been avoided if the supporters of the mosque were sensitive and considerate of the feelings of their neighbors and fellow citizens. So if one must ask, what makes the positioning of this mosque the best and only choice as against all other options? One wonders why the sponsors are insisting on building it there. Will this spot make the prayers of the Muslim faithful more effective than from any other place in New York City? If that will be the case then one can suggest that the Kaaba stone in Mecca should be moved to the site to consummate its sacredness after it is built. What harm will be done to the Muslim faith or the Muslims in New York City if the location is adjusted to accommodate their neighbor’s feelings? Which is better, to compromise the mental and emotional well-being of the majority, 70% of the citizens or for the few people who support the mosque in that place to see reason in recognizing the feelings of their neighbors?
Building codes and permits should be granted not purely based on the rules (constitution) but also on discretion. So our question here is, when all rules have been met, has all the people been met? At the end of the day the rules, structures and buildings will not exist by themselves. It is the people that give rules and structures relevance because they are supposed to serve the people’s pleasures and, not these things that make people relevant in the society. We all agree that the society, the American society based on its constitution is open to all and all can dream equally, but every dreamer must be considerate of the neighbor’s feelings and well-being.
Most of the time, politics is about scoring points, so one may want to ask what point does anyone in support of the mosque in this contentious place want to score. Is it political, religious or constitutional point? In my opinion, whatever point it is it should be the one that strikes a good note with the people’s feelings that should be scored because in every situation where the constitution and the people are supreme, the people should win over the constitution. For those who advocate tolerance we must realize that being tolerant does not make you give up all feelings and permit all things no matter how you feel. And we want to remind the President and the Mayor that in this case the laws (the constitution) may have said to build the mosque but the people say do not.